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What is Cloud?

Updated on April 16, 2012

Cloud Computing Demystified

If you are a technology worker or anything close to it, and your friends keep asking you about a new buzzword "CLOUD" and you have a near vague or no idea about it, then this is the place you should start.

In a layman's term a Cloud is nothing but a platform offered by a vendor who owns the hardware and the platform and lets you use the platform for a charge. Unlike SaaS (Software as a service) where you would rent a software service provided by a vendor, generally Clouds allow you to rent a platform where you can host your virtual servers, software or application and pay for the amount of resources used.

Cloud computing is more of a marketing term used by technology companies to promote this type of service. Cloud hosting companies host large number of hefty servers that enables their subscriber to select the optimum amount of computing power and resources to host their applications. It is something like when you go to your favorite fast food joint and ask for your custom pizza or burger by selecting some of these and some of that. Similarly, cloud subscriber can select the amount of processing power, storage space, and number of shared resources and pay only for what they use.

Types of Clouds

Clouds can be categorized into

  1. Public Clouds
  2. Private Clouds
  3. Hybrid Clouds

Public Clouds:

Public clouds are based on the standard cloud computing model, in which a service provider makes resources, such as applications and storage, available to the general public over the Internet. Public cloud services generally use a pay-per-usage model.

Private Clouds:

Private cloud is infrastructure operated solely for a single organization, whether managed internally or by a third-party and hosted internally or externally.

Users "still have to buy, build, and manage them" and thus do not benefit from less hands-on management, essentially lacking the economic model that makes cloud computing such an intriguing concept"

Hybrid Clouds:

Hybrid cloud is a composition of two or more clouds (private, community, or public) that remain unique entities but are bound together, offering the benefits of multiple deployment models. It can also be defined as multiple cloud systems that are connected in a way that allows programs and data to be moved easily from one deployment system to another.

Cloud Benifits

  1. Agility: It allows the user to re-provision resources whenever and however they want without taking the headache for building and deploying new servers.
  2. Cost: There can be a visible reduction of operational cost based on what model of cloud computing is selected. Cloud computing takes away the need for maintaining large number of hardware and network resources which in turn are managed by the cloud hosting company for multiple tenants.
  3. Location Independence: As the cloud is hooked onto the internet, it can be accessible from anywhere in the world using any web browser regardless of your location or device you are using
  4. Centralization: As there is no need for the users to manage any physical hardware and networks a cloud can be available as a centralized resource available from anywhere in the world, thus reducing costs of travel, electricity and infrastructure management.

Cloud Risks

  1. Privacy: Privacy has been the main concern of many cloud critics as there has been no major audit done on any of the public cloud companies to prove that full privacy of intellectual property data can be guaranteed. Cloud companies can lawfully or unlawfully access user data at will. There may be cases where a federal body approaches the cloud vendors to share data without any notice to the subscriber.
  2. Compliance: Although there are many compliance certifications like SOX and SAS 70 Type II, but this has been criticised on the grounds that the hand-picked set of goals and standards determined by the auditor and the auditee are often not disclosed and can vary widely
  3. Security: Security has always been a concern, as the characteristics of the cloud computing model largely differ to the traditional models and have not been widely tested.

To Cloud, or Not to Cloud?

Would you prefer moving to the cloud anytime in the near future?

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